Wednesday morning’s football practice was more focused and intense compared to the previous day’s practice despite the over 90 degree temperature before 10 a.m. Head coach Steve Sarkisian said he was happy with the team’s energy and focus throughout practice.
“The heat has been good for us,” Sarkisian said. “It’s a positive that we have to work through it.”
Sarkisian sees practices as a whole as what’s most important for the team. He said when the team plays hard consistently throughout practice, that’s what prepares them for the games.
“We have to be hard on one another because that’s going to make us better and help us perform better on Saturdays,” Sarkisian said.
Sarkisian spoke about how true freshman inside linebacker Osa Masina has been playing much more confidently over the past two to three weeks and is playing to his strengths. Masina grabbed another interception during the team portion of practice Wednesday.
Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox also praised Masina’s performance after practice. Masina delivered an immediate impact for the Trojans in his debut after returning a fumble recovery 46 yards for a touchdown.
Wilcox pointed out that the defense will continue to see a significant amount of substitutions. He’d like to continue to see a lot of balance in the number of snaps his plays see in each game. The team’s fluidity is dependent on themselves, not the opponent.
“It’s about getting fresh bodies in the game,” Wilcox said. “Getting the guys who can help us win the game.”
Though the defense played well and held Arkansas State to only a touchdown, Wilcox would like to the team fortify its coverage against dual threat quarterbacks.
“We had chances to make some negative plays that we did not make,” Wilcox said. “Those things need to improve.”
On offense, Sarkisian said he was was glad that the young offensive line was challenged against Arkansas State. He said that being challenged on the first series of the first game will be beneficial for the team later on in the season.
“In the grand scheme of things, we’re still a little young,” Sarkisian said. “But I still think we are going to be very good.”
Redshirt sophomore safety Chris Hawkins, who had an interception and a fumble recovery last game, thought that the defense’s performance as a unit was a good one with so many different players seeing playing time against Arkansas State.
“It’s valuable to mix guys up,” Hawkins said. “It gets a lot of guys experience.”
When it comes to Idaho, the team is not treating them any differently from a Pac-12 opponent.
“We have to look at them as if they’re the best,” Hawkins said. “So we can do our jobs.”
Sophomore wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, likewise, isn’t taking the team’s week two opponent lightly.
“Idaho is going to give it their all,” because they’re playing against USC,” Smith-Schuster said.
Even though Smith-Schuster is only a sophomore, he’s already aiming to emerge as one of the team’s unsung leaders.
“You don’t need a ‘C’ on your chest to be a captain,” he said.
In practice, Smith-Schuster has been seen as the type of player who is always communicating with his teammates, on the field and on the sidelines.
Against Arkansas State, Smith-Schuster was double-teamed frequently. Instead of becoming frustrated by double coverages, Smith-Schuster decided that he was going to embrace it and uses it as motivation.
He is also happy about the advantage that the double-teams give to his teammates because it , in turn, makes it easier on them to get the ball and score.
“If I win on double-team, it looks good for NFL scouts,” Smith-Schuster said. “I love it.”
The No. 8 Trojans will return to Howard Jones Field for one final practice before taking on Idaho at the Coliseum on Saturday night.